Planning for the Future of San Francisco’s Hub Neighborhood

Map of the HUB. Image: SF planning department.
Map of the HUB. Image: SF planning department.

About a hundred planners, developers, neighbors, and interested citizens crowded into a conference room at One South Van Ness yesterday evening for a presentation from the San Francisco Planning Department on their plans for the area immediately around the intersection of Market and Van Ness, also known as the Hub.

The Hub, of course, got its name back in the 1800s, when four trolley lines converged there. And, as John Rahaim, Planning Director for San Francisco, reminded everyone at the start of the meeting, it remains a major transit hub for bikes, Muni trains and buses, and BART.

“We felt it was time to take a fresh look at this portion of the plan,” he said to the group, noting the the Hub neighborhood is also part of the larger Market and Octavia Area Plan adopted in 2008.

So why is the planning department paying special attention to the Hub and, in effect, creating a plan within a plan? Rahaim said they hoped to move more quickly with this area that is such a focus of activity, with its many transit lines, including dedicated Bus Rapid Transit coming to Van Ness, and its proximity to the Opera House and Symphony.

“We felt this part of the plan needed another look to create new open spaces and improve sidewalks,” he explained.

Lily Langlois, SF Planner, brings a packed audience through the city plans. Photo: Streetsblog
Lily Langlois, SF Planner, brings a packed audience through the HUB plan. Photo: Streetsblog

Lily Langlois, another planner with the department, spent about 30 minutes outlining what the city hopes to accomplish. They will increase the amount of affordable housing, enhance the public realm, support the transit enhancements, encourage the arts, and improve the urban form. This last one was quite interesting: Langlois showed renderings of how the buildings in the Hub will change the skyline, as seen from various parts of the city.

Jason Henderson, Chair of the Market & Octavia Community Advisory Committee, brought up the possible demolition of more of the Central Freeway to make room for more housing and pedestrian amenities to feed into the area.

It was standing room only for SF Plannings HUB presentation. Photo: Streetsblog.
It was standing room only for SF Planning’s HUB presentation. Photo: Streetsblog.

Rahaim didn’t seem to want to go there and said that was a larger discussion. But that invited another audience member to stress the importance of protecting automobile access, saying that the city’s policy of “transit first” can’t be “transit only.” Since, as he said, elderly people from Marin are “still going to drive to the opera.” This got a chorus of groans from the audience, with someone blurting out “we’re not in the 1950s anymore!”

That little bit of tension not withstanding, the audience was generally positive and supportive of the renderings and plans that were presented.

Streetsblog readers can learn about the plan, make their own comments, and find out about future meetings, via the planning department website. They can also download the presentation.

A rendering of the streetscape for the HUB. Image: SF Planning.
A rendering of the future streetscape for the HUB. Image: SF Planning.
  • ARRO

    Further demolition of the central freeway is purely money driven/greed and would be a grave mistake in the long run. It would further reduce our infrastructure reducing access to the area, adding street level congestion, and eliminating possible evacuation or access routes in case of a major emergency or disaster. That would not be forward thinking for an area expecting a major density increase…

  • gneiss

    If you think the Central Freeway could be used for evacuation during an emergency, you must be on crack. It’s elevated. After an earthquake, do you think any elevated roadway would be stable enough to use? Don’t forget that they were shut down all over the Bay Area after Loma Prieta, and that earthquake took place 60 miles south of San Francisco and was only a magnitude 6.9. To give you an example of what a real disaster will be, you only need to consider the 1906 earthquake – magnitude 7.9 and just offshore from the city.

    As for reducing our infrastructure, there was far more of that on the Embarcadero Freeway. Do you see a reduction in access to the area? Has Fisherman’s Wharf or the Ferry Building experienced a decline in access?

  • RichLL

    A demo of the Central Subway was not a central part of the proposals and discussion, but rather an opportunistic fantasy suggestion by Jason Henderson, who never met a freeway he didn’t want to demolish.

    We had three voter initiatives on the Octavia Boulevard and I think many people might lose the will to live if we have to go through that again.

  • Gezellig

    Mmmmmmhmmm! Look at all that freedom-loving Access that San Franciscans used to enjoy:

    http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7051/6954524483_d6e40b8bec_o.jpg

    http://sfpl.org/images/libraries/main/departments/sfphotos/featured-galleries/james-scott/fullsize/223a.jpg

    In those days, people used to flock to the waterfront and public plazas, before the freeway came down and ruined all the Access.

    People *especially* enjoyed flocking to–well, more like briefly alongside and around and then quickly away from–these lively public gems by car. Actually…pretty much all by car.

    What a loss!

  • Gills

    Of course the Planners want to improve pedestrian access in that area. It’s right by the Planning Department and every time they go to lunch they risk bein killed crossing the street, especially at Otis/Van Ness and Mission. I think that ranks as the worst intersection for pedestrians in the city.

  • RichLL

    My vote for the worst intersection would be the 5-way intersection at Potrero/Brannan/Division under the freeway. Probably the least scenic as well.

    Of course, it’s people that cause accidents and not things.

  • the_greasybear

    Interesting the Planning Department is using a very, very old map showing the area’s street configuration before the elevated freeway was torn down (e.g. the old Octavia alignment, the old McCoppin underpass). Weird!

  • Jeremy

    I think that’s just the lines from the right of way. Elgin Park is still open to Market.

  • The #1 priority of this project should be to to ensure Marin elderly people can drive a speeding combustible metal box thru our pedestrian rich city.

  • Gezellig

    Absolutely!

    Doyle “Totally-Not-a-Freeway-Because-Its-Name-Ends-in-‘Drive’, Dummy” should absolutely be extended to the area. Some forward thinkers have actually proposed just the remedy we need:

    http://www.cahighways.org/maps/1955trafficways.jpg

    I even found a nice image of what the Progress could look like:

    http://imgs.sfgate.com/inline/c/pxs/2004/10/20/mn_octavia_cntrlfwy_chronfile.jpg

    And just so the dirty hippies quit their whining we could even name it 101…Drive. Or Central…Drive!

  • Michael Morris

    I feel like you could make the area around the freeway nicer without demolishing the freeway. They’d rather demolish the freeway and have a blank canvas instead of improving existing streets like 11th and 12th

  • thielges

    San Francisco is at a natural disadvantage for fast evacuation in the event of an earthquake. Surrounded by water on three sides and a mountain on the other leaves only a few fragile bottlenecks, many of which would be severed by the quake. Even the ferry docks are expected to be out of service. So plan to shelter in place for a few days after the Big One.

  • njudah

    This is all lovely, but if there’s no plan to seriously increase transit to move all these people, all the self driving cars will clog this area and make it a sea of smog and people Not Going Anywhere. so long as the “cars always” crowd has screamers to show up at meetings, an MTA that rolls over for them, and a local media that’s sympathetic to them and to suburban prejudice against the City, this will be a lovely mess people will attribute to “bad planning” in 20 years….

  • p_chazz

    Self driving cars will be electric and will be able to move much more quickly and efficiently.

  • p_chazz

    The link to download the presentation links to a PDF for a flyer for the workshop. The presentation is here: http://sf-planning.org/market-street-hub-project

  • Jimbo

    the demolition of the central freeway was a huge failure and has drastically increased congestion, pollution and made a freeway on the street level in hayes valley

  • @Jimbo – I assume your source to substantiate these claims is the same one you failed to produce on Hoodline, SFist, etc. — pretty much anywhere that uses Disqus.

  • @p_chazz – And all the pollution to generate the electricity will be off in Richmond or somewhere that we don’t see and never have to worry about the communities of color who live downwind of it. Just clear ocean breezes for our technological epic grooviness!

  • p_chazz

    Clean energy, bro!

  • @p_chazz – There’s only so much clean energy available, particularly at peak use hours when this supposed solution to all transportation ills will be operating. Adding a fleet of cars to peak use means firing up peaker plants.

    The ones I lived by in Potrero Hill and the Bayview ran on dirty diesel. These have been offshored to the East Bay.

  • p_chazz

    How do you figure? The cars will be using batteries. I think that by the time we have self-driving cars, there will be advances in battery technology that will allow them to go further between charges.

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